Monday, December 26, 2016

I upgraded my computer--including stupid technician tricks

System Information (from Control Panel/System)


The last two times I was on +Adafruit Industries #showandtell, my video was unacceptable.  That's a minor irritation for me, but the second time I had my seven-year-old-granddaughter on. She was able to get through it, but it was a struggle.  Show and and Tell is a Google Hangout, and the minimum requirements include a quad-core processor.  I had been getting by with an AMD Athlon X2 dual-core processor and ASUS Motherboard for the 3 years I've been participating by shutting everything else down and running just one tab on Chrome for the hangout, but I guess Google's "enhancements" have rendered my computer obsolete.

The computer was an 8-year old home-build, and has served me well, but I decided that I needed to get my granddaughter on again in fine style, so I bought an AMD 8-core processor and ASUS motherboard. Actually I bought an ASRock motherboard first, but I had some issues with the build (see below) and I read reports of this mobo bursting into flames, so I returned it and ordered the ASUS. I will report here after I try Show and Tell again, but so far it's great.

Additions

I also ordered a new graphics card.  I'm not very happy with it. First, the description, the invoice, and the parts list all say it supports DirectX 12.  What Newegg sent me supports DirectX 11.2, according to the box. I returned it for replacement, expecting them to fix their error right away.  It turns out that they refused to replace it until the receive the one they sent in error.  So, I changed it to refund and ordered a new one.  I got the new one 5 days before they received the return. To my surprise, it was the same version. Newegg has been good in the past, but this is not good.  Over 2 weeks later I still do not have a refund.  

In addition, I got this card because Microsoft says that the Windows 10 video capture tool works with AMD Radeon R7 and later. However, it's still telling me that my video card is not good enough for them. More research.

The motherboard has an  M.2 slot for what is essentially and SSD stick.  When I get around to it, I will add a 250GB SSD using this new, smaller, faster technology.

The motherboard also has COM header for a serial port, Since my ham radios are able to work digital modes through a serial port I ordered one from China and will hook that up to enable me to experiment with digital modes. More learning and excitement!

Since the 650W power supply I had in the machine had failed recently, I had replaced it with a 800W supply.  Underpowering a system is an invitation to frustration, so if you're upgrading, don't forget to be sure that you have a power supply that will meet all the requirements of your new system.

Stupid Technician Tricks

I won't go into detail on the big one (it's embarrassing and I know better), but here are some suggestions for installing an AMD CPU on a motherboard:
  1. lift up the lever next to the pad on the motherboard
  2. align the arrow in one corner of the CPU with the arrow on the motherboard pad (also check the pattern of the CPU pins to be sure they align with the pattern on the pad
  3. only after the CPU is seated properly, push the lever down
  4. check that everything is secure BEFORE adding the heatsink/fan assembly
Enough said, except that the overarching recommendation is "Take your time!"  

The only other problem I had was minor:  the hard drive light was not lighting. Obviously, I connected it wrong.  Lesson: double check your connections before you plug in the unit, and check that everything works before putting the case all back together.

Activation

Initially, I thought I may need to buy a new copy of Windows, but I read up on Microsoft's digital license policy and made sure that I was all set up.  I had Windows 10 Pro, installed as part of Microsoft's free upgrade program. Since I had purchased Windows 8.1 Pro, it upgraded me to Windows 10 Pro.  After I fired up the  machine I was not asked to activate Windows (although Office 2010 did ask to be activated--quick and easy).  I did get a message "you need to fix your Microsoft Account."  Google revealed that I needed to update a user. When I went in to do that I was told I couldn't because Windows wasn't activated.  I went through the activation process--which tells you you need to buy a new copy but has a non-prominent link "I recently upgraded my hardware."  I clicked that, and after a couple of "our servers are down" messages, I was able to activate.  Done,

I use Norton Security provided as part of my subscription to Comcast.  Norton said it had expired.  I couldn't convince it that it hadn't, and Comcast help was typically useless, so I uninstalled it and reinstalled and all was forgiven.

Summary

I have a fast new machine that should work with the Adafruit Show and Tell Google Hangout. Everything is activated.  I have and upgrade path to an SSD and will have a serial port to use for ham radio digital modes as soon as it arrives.  Overall I'm happy with the build.

The only issue is the video card.  I read on the interwebs that others with this card have had the problem Windows 10 video capture.  I'm working on it.